Category Archives: Atatürk

Wrong prescription for Turkey

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 08.52.59Turn Anatolia into a Western-style social rat’s nest? No thanks

On no subject, writes Dalrymple,

is the Turkish state more sensitive than on the massacre of the Armenians in 1915. Was it one massacre among others, or the 20th century’s first genocide?

The novelist Elif Şafak specialises, Dalrymple points out, in

in inflaming the sore points of Turkish history. She wants a Turkey less ethnically and culturally homogeneous than that of the traditional Kemalist vision, and questions the sanctity of Atatürk and the army that protects his legacy, but expresses sympathy for Kurds and even Greeks.

But, Dalrymple says,

one may doubt whether the realistic alternative to the Kemalist version of Turkey is a multiculturalist paradise, where the Turk lies down with the Greek, rather than a Muslim theocracy.

Unfortunately Şafak subscribes, Dalrymple points out, to the

hackneyed views of the 1960s that have brought much social dislocation to the West, and would be more devastating still in Turkey.


reflects upon her own experience as an upper-middle-class intellectual and assumes that it is exemplary for millions.

This attitude is not

a useful prescription for all of Turkish society, or at least for that considerable part of it that does not live in, and was not raised in, cosmopolitan circles. Şafak seems a typical example of the intellectual who uses personal history uncritically to draw conclusions about society as a whole.

All the same, needless to say, such intellectuals, however dangerous they might be,

should not have to go to jail for their views.

Vestimentary horseplay at Istanbul Atatürk Airport

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 23.37.44In Constantinople, writes Dalrymple, many of the women are in Mahometan dress,

including in the horrible, shapeless gabardine sack which seems recently to have been devised to preserve their modesty.

At Istanbul Atatürk Airport, still named after Mustafa Kemal (for now, he notes), he watches this scene unfold at the immigration desk:

A Saudi couple approached it, he in canary-yellow Lacoste T-shirt (to which his physique was unsuited), jeans and Adidas trainers in which he never had, and never would, run; she in full crow-black niqab, with a slit for her eyes. When she reached the immigration officer, he asked her to lift her veil. She was reluctant to do so, and he signalled to her again. She lifted it so fleetingly, with an upward flick, that he could see little, certainly not whether her face corresponded to that in her passport. He made it clear that she had to lift her veil for longer. She refused and he, exasperated, pointed to a desk at which there was a female immigration officer. The same scene was re-enacted there, but eventually, realising that unless she complied she would not be allowed through, she lifted the veil long enough for the officer to be satisfied.

Darymple’s gorge rises and he asks:

  • What imaginary threat was obviated by this vestimentary rigmarole?
  • What were the woman’s feelings during this episode? Fear was on her face when I saw it, but fear of what? The wrath of God or of her husband? That anyone catching a glimpse of her would assault her sexually? Or was it the fear of a creature of the night when exposed to daylight?
  • If it were so necessary to preserve her from the impure or polluting gaze of strangers, why travel?